Shop, hide and lie... and other online shopping confessions.


Mamamia Publisher, Mia Freedman

For me, shopping and subterfuge have always been inextricably linked. Not grocery shopping. Not shopping for necessities like tyres or white goods or school shoes or sheets. Not shopping for others, not gifts.

But buying things for yourself and being deceitful about it go together like ice cream and Milo. Naturally.

Consider one of the most popular modern sports for women: Shop, Hide and Lie where you buy things, sneak them into your house to avoid questioning and then lie if asked (by a man), “Is that new?”

We have regular debates in my house about the definition of ‘new’. Is it something I bought this week? This year? Or just something my husband hasn’t seen me in before?

My own definition is tight. It’s new if I bought it in the previous 72 hours. Once the tag is off? Not new anymore. Conveniently, this allows me to meet almost all his enquiries with the truthful response: “No, it’s old”. (Quick aside: why do I bristle and deny it when my husband asks if something is new but when a girlfriend asks, I beam and say “yes!’ and proudly disclose all details of said purchase?).

Sequin top $139.95. Buy it here

Most women are adept at the art of smuggling purchases from store to wardrobe. Some even keep dry-cleaner bags in their cars for this very purpose while others stash swing tags in the glove box or the neighbour’s wheelie bin.

Forcast Necklace $29.95. Buy it here

I’ve given much thought as to why we bother with this charade, even if we’re spending our own money. Perhaps it’s instinctive. Like the way my dog will always bury a bone. Clearly, this is unnecessary because there is no shortage of bones or food and nobody is going to steal the disgusting manky thing if he leaves it on the grass. Still, he buries it. The urge is embedded in his doggy DNA.

I bury my shopping even though my husband doesn’t care if I buy things I may not actually need (the definition of ‘need’ is also highly contentious at my house; I find debating technicalities is an effective diversionary tactic to defect attention from a new purchase. Try it.).

With less shopping time available as the demands of work and kids crank up, I’ve recently had an online shopping epiphany… I’d dabbled a bit in the past. A bit of eBay here. The odd purchase there. But until recently, my usual modus operandi has been this perverse thing where I gaily fill my online shopping cart and then abandon it at the checkout, close the window and forget about it. This is surprisingly satisfying. But why?


I hate window-shopping in real life. If I’m going to bother finding the time to go to the shops, park my car, leave a trail of breadcrumbs so I can find it again and then traipse around trying things on, I want to buy something, dammit.

Online shopping is different, however. You needn’t invest any physical effort beyond moving your index finger a bit and even if you do buy something, you must wait for it to arrive.

So once you remove the instant gratification buzz of leaving a store with a shopping bag on your arm and having something new to wear THAT DAY, buying or not buying online aren’t all that different.

Mia’s latest online purchase. ICE pants $20. Buy it here

I thought I was the only freak who did this but it turns out there are many like-minded women who fill carts and abandon them. It even has a name, “Gratis Shopping” or “Free Shopping” and I know this because I read an article about it in the aptly named Shop magazine.

Virtual shopping also feels satisfying because so much of the pleasure of retail therapy is in the thought process, imagining how a new purchase will magically pull together your entire wardrobe and hey, maybe your life.

You don’t need to actually buy it to go through that thought process, in fact buying it usually kills the fantasy. By simply gathering together your top picks from ShopBop, The Iconic, Westfield online or Asos or Revolver, you can create the most sensation virtual wardrobe, flex a bit of shopping muscle, amuse yourself visually and keep your credit card pristine.

The biggest danger of online shopping is that you cannot control how or when it gets to your house. The smuggle part is suddenly impossible because your new stuff could come via courier or through the mailbox AT ANY TIME. You may not even be home. And when a package with a big sticker saying “Victoria’s Secret” turns up at the door, it can be a bit tricky to say, “What? This old thing?”.